December 21, 2014

Elyria
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Lorain Schools won’t put levy coming on fall ballot

LORAIN — Despite a projected $2.85 million deficit, Lorain Schools won’t put a levy on the November ballot.

Superintendent Tom Tucker said Tuesday the deficit will be eliminated through attrition. About 28 teachers and three assistant principals who retired this month won’t be replaced due to declining enrollment.

Many of the teachers were longtime educators at the top of the pay scale earning between $70,000 and $75,000 annually, Tucker said. Annual health benefits were about $20,000 per teacher.

The 6,600-student school district has lost about 3,500 students in the last decade due to competition from privately run, publicly funded charter schools, open enrollment and vouchers. The district, which has an annual budget of about $93 million, receives approximately $5,700 per student.

Other factors include $5 million in delinquent taxes that reduces school income and the Legislature’s cap on funding to school districts in the biennial budget. Lorain received $67.4 million in state money in 2013-14, but would have received $76.2 million without the cap.

Treasurer Dale Weber in May said in a worst-case scenario, the district could lose about 500 students in the next school year, costing the district $25.4 million. To recruit and retain students by promoting the district, Board of Education members on Monday approved spending $40,000 in state taxpayer money to hire Tools for Schools, a Twinsburg marketing company.

The company’s website says it develops recruitment and retention plans in which “every event and marketing interaction is carefully choreographed to lead to the next step in the process.” Tucker said the company has promoted Lorain County Community College.

The district last passed a new levy in 2012, but before that the last levy passed was in 1992. While Weber forecasts future deficits if enrollment continues to plunge, Tucker said seeking a levy should be a last resort.

“We need to demonstrate to the public that we’re going to do our due diligence before we ask them for more money,” he said.

Contact Evan Goodenow at 329-7129 or egoodenow@chroniclet.com.